Harrisburg Police Department struggles to attract, retain police officers

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Harrisburg Police Department struggling to hire and keep officers on the force. Since Mayor Eric Papenfuse took office, he says they're hired about 70 officers. In that same time about 40 have left.

"Basically as positions have opened up, we have not been able to find enough people to fill the positions," said Papenfuse. "And then oftentimes the people filling the positions are leaving."

The city budgets to have 150 officers, currently they have about 130. More than two dozen of those are eligible for retirement in the near future.

"It seems like every year we try to budget for more," said Papenfuse. 'But we can't just reach those goals."

Papenfuse believes one part of the problem is starting salaries for officers in the $40,000-50,000 range, while officers could go elsewhere in the suburbs and make more. Then there's Act 47, Papenfuse says it not only limited the city's ability to negotiate wages of employees but also affected benefits.

"And so some of the things beyond salaries that would draw someone to the police departments, like health care costs and copays and this sort of thing, those all increased so we became a little less competitive in Act 47," said Papenfuse.

With Harrisburg set to leave Act 47 in early 2019, Papenfuse is eager to get back to the table without the limitations the city had under Act 47.

"Now I think we can go back and revisit contracts and we can look at doing something more aggressive," said Papenfuse. "At least on terms of salary scale and benefits to help up with this retention crisis."

Papenfuse did commend the police department for doing what they can with what they have. He also praised the revamp of their community policing division.

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